Swarovski OPTIK is an Austrian company that got its start in 1895 by cutting crystals and precision grinding jewels. Grinding jewels progressed to grinding lenses, which led to Swarovski’s segue into riflescope production in 1959.
Two distinctions make Swarovski different among other riflescope companies: Their ability to perform both optical and mechanical design engineering, and their in-house production capabilities. Many ideas never make it into a scope because large component manufacturers make more money with cheaper solutions. Being able to perform their own optical and mechanical engineering has given Swarovski the ability to develop the features their customers want without outsourcing services to bigger glass and optical component manufacturers. Great ideas in large places, if low volume, often go nowhere.
A balancing act is required between ensuring a scope has all the features one needs, but without being so complicated that only the most experienced enthusiasts can understand it. The new Swarovski Z5(i) 3.5-18x44mm scope I evaluated for this issue had two great features that probably would have never made it to production with another scope company.
The first great feature was the clever turret system, which I found would meet the needs of 90 percent of hunters in the field. It’s as simple as simple gets, and still gives a hunter every option needed to be successful. The Z5(i) scope’s elevation turret also allows the rifle to be zeroed and has a zero stop. The zero stop means the rifleman can spin the turret clockwise until it stops and will know it has returned to zero. This is an extremely useful feature when moving the crosshair to the correct location for target hits at distances other than the rifle’s zeroed distance. (I recommend spinning the elevation turret to the exact distance, which eliminates guessing in the field.) A scope needs to be zeroed to the rifle on which it sits, and that’s about the only mandatory mechanical requirement.
Typically, the problem for many shooters is in the confusion of adjusting an elevation turret in the field to hit the target. In addition to knowing the distance to the target, the hunter has to know how much to adjust the elevation turret to make a hit at that distance. There are ballistic apps available to help with this process, but if a shooter doesn’t want to use phone tech, he’s in a difficult position. The Z5(i) has a fantastic solution for this that is simple, and works effectively with or without a ballistic app on your smart device.
The simplest method to judge the distance to a target is to zero the rifle at 100 yards, and then shoot targets at 300, 400 and 500 yards while adjusting the elevation turret to hit each and verify point of impact. (The drop for most cartridges at 200 yards is only a couple inches from a 100-yard zero, so I wouldn’t set any of the Z5(i)’s three color-coded rings until you put rounds on the 300-yard target.)
There are three adjustable rings on the Z5(i): One colored green and the two others are yellow and red. Loosening and removing the turret cap allows these three rings to be arranged wherever the user pleases. To set the ring, simply lift it off the turret and align the colored mark with the witness mark on the turret housing. It’s just like zeroing the rifle except using a colored ring for different distances. Once the shooter has rounds on target at 300 yards, then lift the green-dot ring off the turret and align the ring with the witness mark used to zero the rifle. Next, simply re-attach the turret cap and rotate the turret until the shooter is hitting the target at 400 yards. The yellow ring marks the zero adjustment for that. I’d use the red ring for my 500-yard zero.
All of this can be done without the use of supporting equipment. It allows the shooter to have four different zeros on one scope. When zeroing with this method, the longer zeroed ranges will be accurate as long as the hunter shoots within plus-or-minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit of when he originally zeroed, and within plus-or-minus 2,000 feet of elevation. (Temperature and pressure both affect bullet flight at longer distances.) At the next hunt where the quarry appears at 350 yards, the hunter simply spins the turret until the witness mark used for zeroing is halfway between the green and yellow dots — and he shoots. The point of impact will be within an inch or two of point of aim. For those desiring an exact solution and don’t mind using a ballistic calculator, set the rings with the colored dots in a similar fashion knowing that the elevation turret adjusts in ¼-MOA per click.
The second unique mechanical feature the Z5(i) utilizes in an erector spring system that’s unlike those found on almost any other variable-powered scope I’ve seen. Swarovski uses four small coil springs at the ocular end of the erector assembly instead of the more common leaf spring that touches the side of the erector assembly.
Spring tension on the erector assembly is what allows the shooter to make precise adjustments to the elevation or windage turret. Screws inside the turret push the erector assembly away from the turrets, while spring tension against the erector assembly ensures it remains tight against the turret screws. Spring tension is essential in holding the erector tightly against the turret screws and allows for the scope to adjust reliably and repeatedly. (Approximately .002-inch per click.)
Leaf-spring erector springs on scopes are common, but require quality finish work on both spring and erector tubes to work well for a long time. Should the finish ever become less than perfect, friction from the spring can prevent the scope from adjusting properly. I know of one other scope company that polished erector springs in a tumbler non-stop for five days: Nightforce. All that effort was to get the finish right and to never worry about friction between the erector tube and spring. Five days of polishing in a tumbler made those springs expensive.
Swarovski’s innovative solution generates less friction between the tube and spring. The springs are made of small coils that push against the edge of the erector tube. They use four springs instead of one, which spreads the workload over a wide area and provides very little movement. This arrangement is a great way of putting consistent tension on the erector assembly, while diminishing the threat friction poses to scope adjustment.
Putting the springs at the ocular end of the erector assembly helps recoil-proof the scope. Use of the springs to apply tension in opposition to the recoil force diminishes the abuse the erector tube takes when the rifle fires.
Swarovski has been in the optics business for a long time and it shows in products such as the Z5(i). It has a unique and versatile multiple-zero system and an erector assembly unlike any other on the market. The Z5(i) is an excellent choice for an all-around hunting scope, especially for those who needs to mount one on a hard-kicking rifle. I tested the 3.5-18x44, but there are 2.4-12x50 and 5-25x52 models available.
Swarovski Z5(i) P BT L 3.5-18x44mm Specs
- Power: 3.5X-18X
- Objective: 44mm
- Tube Diameter: 1 inch
- Elevation Adjustment: .25 MOA per click
- Windage: .25 MOA per click
- Reticle: PLEX-L
- Length: 14.29 in.
- Weight: 1 lb., 1 oz.
- Eye Relief: 3.75 in.
- MSRP: $1,400
- Manufacturer: Swarovski Optik, 800-426-3089, swarovskioptik.com